Friday, June 29

a visit to sunbird ridge

rhonda was excited for us to meet tony & lyn, who lived in barangay lonos and had quite an interesting bird-friendly garden. despite our aching legs from our tablas adventure the day before, we gamely walked up the hill to their home, not imagining the delightful surprises we would encounter.

sunbird ridge stood on a hillside overlooking the passage to romblon island, a beautiful view of turquoise waters, white sand beaches and green islands. but the beautiful vista was not the only attraction of their home, they also had a daily stream of feathered visitors coming to their garden!
a view of sunbird ridge from the ferry

a view of the sea from sunbird ridge

tony had several sunbird feeding stations set-up all over their garden.  each station had a convenient perch over four shot glasses of sugary solution placed on planter basins with enough water to deter ants. cheerful sunbirds came all day long to enjoy this sugary open bar!
sunbird feeding stations were set up all over the garden

it was a delight to sit on their porch and watch the sunbirds, mostly olive-backed, come to the feeders and drink up the sugar solutions. sometimes there were 7 or more birds at a single feeding station! these were familiar friends of tony and lyn, they could identify the young ones as well as some of the long-time patrons.  there was even a very competitive male, guarding his stash of 4 shot glasses, and chasing all other sunbirds away.  until, that is, he was quite overwhelmed by the number of competitors arriving to drink that he finally gave up and perched, enjoyed his sipping the home-made nectar.

a male olive-backed sunbird enjoying his fill of sugared water

tony and lyn would prepare the sugar solution by boiling brown sugar in water at a specific ratio, then pour the sterilized solution in the shot glasses served over the course of the day.  they started out with honey solution, but that was too expensive to maintain!  they now ration the solution so that they "only" serve 1/4 kilos of sugar a day.  in order to prevent bacterial and fungal infections in the birds which can cause beak deformities, tony washes the glasses and replaces any leftover solution daily and gives the containers a good scrub with bleach every couple of days. initially, it took them quite a few weeks to get the birds interested in the feeders. it was a gradual process, starting with dropping some of the solution on the real flowers until finally one bird perched on the shot glass strategically placed beside the plants accidentally dipped its beak into the sugary water. after that the learning process progressed quite quickly with the other birds.

how many sunbirds can you see? 

most of the sunbirds were female olive-backs

it was a rainy day when we first visited sunbird ridge, but the showers didn't stop the sunbirds from dropping by tony and lyn's garden!  even with the rain we saw that the volume dropped to half the shot glass in under an hour!
a steady stream of visiting birds even on a rainy day

we couldn't resist visiting again the morning before we left.  it was a beautiful morning, with the sun shining brightly and the aquamarine sea shimmering in the distance.

a beautiful sunny day

in the full sun, the sunbirds, too, shimmered. like little jewels, they zipped back and forth, stopping to drink and to sing cheerfully. there were also purple-throated sunbirds! first, a drab female, looking inconspicuous next to the olive-backed girls then a young male with just touches of red starting to show on its belly.  then, an iridescent male, its emerald green head and shoulders glinting in the sun, purple throat and scarlet breast standing out.  it was such a joy to watch.

a female purple-throated sunbird shows up...

... then a juvenile male purple-throated sunbird...

... and finally a beautiful adult male purple-throated sunbird! (notice the reaction of the olive-backed: hecheche!)

a confrontation between the 2 males of different species

there were several other regular visitors to the garden.  we saw kingfishers, oriental magpie-robins, spotted and zebra doves and pink-necked green pigeons.  a yellow-vented bulbul had a nest near one of the doors, an oriole nest was found near the porch and a coucal nest on the grassy area beside the house. tony and lyn told us also about the other birds they had observed.

juvenile and adult spotted doves were frequent visitors also (errata: des a. says "juvy" is actually an island collared dove)

we had a grand time over at sunbird ridge! tony and lyn regaled us with bird tales: of sunbirds recognizing and approaching them in town, of rarities spotted after typhoons, of the ups and downs in keeping a bird-friendly garden. they shared the photos and paintings they had accumulated over the years.  lyn, who made hand-made jewelry, showed us her intricate handiwork. i suppose that our birdy-minds made us kindred spirits in a way.  lyn was so delighted that we didn't find their bird obsession strange (like many others they had met who found the bird conversation kooky), and that we in fact shared the passion, and could spend the whole day talking about birds. she dubbed us all members of the kooky-kooky club!

bird brains: the kooky kooky club

i loved that sunbird ridge showed that we could have bird-friendly gardens here in the country! hummingbird feeders in the united states fascinated me. back home, the sunbirds would be attracted to our backyard because of the heliconia and banana flowers.  last christmas, my brother gave me a hummingbird feeder to try out (sadly, it is still in its box).  wbcp-er neon had also reported his success with hummingbird feeders for the sunbirds in his garden... tony and lyn's garden shows that it is possible to set up feeders even with regular items found around the house. plus a lot of patience and a bit of kooky-ness of course!

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